, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 659–669

Interannual and long-term variation in the nearshore fish community of the mesohaline Hudson River estuary

  • Thomas P. Hurst
  • Kim A. McKown
  • David O. Conover


The detection of long-term shifts in species composition and spatial structuring of aquatic communities may be obscured by high levels of interannual variation. Estuarine fish communities are likely to exhibit high levels of variation owing to the influence of riverine forcing and the importance of anadromous and transient species, whose abundances may not be locally controlled. We describe patterns of interannual variation and long-term shifts in the nearshore fish community of the mesohaline Hudson River estuary based on 21 yr of beach seine sampling conducted annually between late August and mid November. Of the 60 species encountered, the most abundant were Atlantic silversides (Menidia menidia), striped bass (Morone saxatilis), white perch (Morone americana), American shad (Alosa sapidissima), and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis). Relationships between annual community composition and seasonal flow and temperature regimes were examined with canonical correspondence analysis. Annual variation was most closely correlated with river flows in the 3-mo period preceding fish sampling, indicating a persistent effect of environmental conditions on community structure. Despite significant interannual variation in composition, longer-term trends in community structure were observed. These included declines in catch rates of freshwater and estuarine species and a dramatic increase in the catch of Atlantic silversides, an annual marine species. Associated with these changes were declines in community diversity and increased compositional variation. These results indicate that analyses of temporal changes in community structure need to account for the multiple time scales under which forcing factors and community composition vary.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Able, K. W. andM. P. Fahay. 1998. The First Year in the Life of Estuarine Fishes in the Middle Atlantic Bight. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  2. Abood, K. A., G. A. Apicella, andA. W. Wells. 1992. General evaluation of Hudson River freshwater flow trends, p. 3–28.In C. L. Smith (eds.) Estuarine Research in the 1980's. State University of New York Press, Albany, New York.Google Scholar
  3. Araujo, F. G., R. G. Bailey, andW. P. Williams. 1998. Seasonal and between year-variations if fish populations in the middle Thames estuary: 1980–1989.Fisheries Management and Ecology 5:1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beebe, C. A., I. R. Savidge, R. J. Klauda, D. S. Vaughan, andR. L. Kendall. 1988. Historical perspective on fish species composition and distribution in the Hudson River estuary.American Fisheries Society Monograph 4:25–36.Google Scholar
  5. Brosnan, T. M. andM. L. O'Shea. 1996. Long-term improvements in water quality due to sewage abatement in the lower Hudson River.Estuaries 19:890–900.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Caraco, N. F., J. J. Cole, P. A. Raymond, D. L. Strayer, M. L. Pace, S. E. G. Findlay, andD. T. Fischer. 1997. Zebra mussel invasion in a large turbid river: Phytoplankton response to increased grazing.Ecology 78:588–602.Google Scholar
  7. Claridge, P. N. andI. C. Potter. 1984. Abundance, movements and size of gadoids (Teleostei) in the Severn estuary.Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 64:771–790.Google Scholar
  8. Connell, J. H. andW. P. Sousa. 1983. On the evidence needed to judge ecological stability or persistence.American Naturalist 121:789–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Connolly, J. P., H. A. Zahakos, J. Benaman, C. K. Ziegler, J. R. Rhea, andK. Russell. 2000. A model of PCB fate in the upper Hudson River.Environmental Science and Technology 34:4076–4087.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cooper, J. C., F. R. Cantelmo, andC. E. Newton. 1988. Overview of the Hudson River estuary.American Fisheries Society Monograph 4:11–24.Google Scholar
  11. Corten, A. andG. van de Kamp. 1996. Variation in the abundance of southern fish species in the southern North Sea in relation to hydrography and wind.ICES Journal of Marine Sciences 53:1113–1119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Erman, D. C., E. D. Andrews, andM. Yoder-Williams. 1988. Effects of winter floods on fishes in the Sierra Nevada.Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 45:2195–2200.Google Scholar
  13. Friedland, K. D., D. W. Ahrenholz, andJ. F. Guthrie. 1996. Formation and seasonal evolution of Atlantic menhaden juvenile nurseries in coastal estuaries.Estuaries 19:105–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Greenstreet, S. P. R. andS. J. Hall. 1996. Fishing and the ground-fish assemblage structure in the north-western North Sea: An analysis of long-term and spatial trends.Journal of Animal Ecology 65:577–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Grossman, G. D., J. F. Dowd, andM. Crawford. 1990. Assemblage stability in stream fishes: A review.Environmental Management 14:661–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grossman, G. D., R. E. Ratajczak, M. Crawford, andM. C. Freeman. 1998. Assemblage organization in stream fishes: Effects of environmental variation and interspecific interactions.Ecological Monographs 68:395–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Holbrook, S. J., M. J. Kingsford, R. J. Schmitt, andJ. S. Stephens. 1994. Spatial and temporal patterns in assemblages of temperate reef fish.American Zoologist 34:463–475.Google Scholar
  18. Hurst, T. P. andD. O. Conover. 2002. Effects of temperature and salinity on survival of young-of-the-year Hudson River striped bass (Morone saxatilis): Implications for optimal wintering habitats.Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 59:787–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jeffries, H. P. andW. C. Johnson. 1974. Seasonal distributions of bottom fishes in Narragansett Bay area: Seven-year variations in the abundance of winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus).Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 31: 1057–1066.Google Scholar
  20. Jumars, P. A. 1980. Rank correlation and concordance tests in community analysis: An inappropriate null hypothesis.Ecology 61:1553–1554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Legendre, P. andL. Legendre. 1998. Numerical Ecology. Elesevier Science, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  22. Levin, L. A., D. Talley, andG. Thayer. 1996. Succession of macrobenthos in a created salt marsh.Marine Ecology Progress Series 141:67–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Loneragan, N. R. andI. C. Potter. 1990. Factors influencing community structure and distribution of different life-cycle categories of fishes in shallow waters of a large Australian estuary.Marine Biology 106:25–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. MacDonald, J. S., M. J. Dadswell, R. G. Appy, G. D. Melvin, andD. A. Methven. 1984. Fishes, fish assemblages, and their seasonal movements in the lower Bay of Fundy and Passamaquoddy Bay, Canada.Fishery Bulletin 82:121–139.Google Scholar
  25. Magurran, A. E. 1988. Ecological Diversity and its measurement. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  26. Matthews, W. J., R. C. Cashner, andF. P. Gelwick. 1988. Stability and persistence of fish faunas and assemblages in three Midwestern streams.Copeia 1988:945–955.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mills, C. A. andR. H. K. Mann. 1985. Environmentally-induced fluctuations in year-class strength and their implications for management.Journal of Fish Biology 27:209–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mills, E. L., D. L. Strayer, M. D. Scheuerell, andJ. T. Carlton. 1996. Exotic species in the Hudson River basin: A history of invasions and introductions.Estuaries 19:814–823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Oberdorff, T., B. Hugueny, andT. Vigneron. 2001. Is assemblage variability related to environmental variability? An answer for riverine fish.Oikos 93:419–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Onorato, D. A., R. A. Angus, andK. R. Marion. 2000. Historical changes in the ichthyofaunal assemblages of the upper Cahaba River in Alabama associated with extensive urban development in the watershed.Journal of Freshwater Ecology 15:47–63.Google Scholar
  31. Pace, M. L., S. E. G. Findlay, andD. Fischer. 1998. Effects of an invasive bivalve on the zooplankton community of the Hudson River.Freshwater Biology 39:103–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Paller, M. H., M. J. M. Reichert, J. M. Dean, andJ. C. Seigle. 2000. Use of fish community data to evaluate restoration success of a riparian stream.Ecological Engineering 15:S171-S187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Peterson, M. S. andM. R. Meador. 1994. Effects of salinity on freshwater fishes in coastal plain drainages in the southeastern U.S.Reviews in Fisheries Science 2:95–121.Google Scholar
  34. Pielou, E. C. 1974. Population and Community Ecology. Gordon and Breach. New York.Google Scholar
  35. Rahel, F. J., J. D. Lyons, andP. A. Cochran. 1984. Stochastic or deterministic regulation of assemblage structure? It may depend on how the assemblage is defined.American Naturalist 124:583–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rogers, S. I. andJ. R. Ellis. 2000. Changes in the demersal fish assemblages of British coastal waters during the 20th century.CES Journal of Marine Science 57:866–881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sanudo-Wilhelmy, S. A. andG. A. Gill. 1999. Impact of the Clean Water Act on the levels of toxic metals in urban estuaries: The Hudson River estuary revisited.Environmental Science and Technology 33:3477–3481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schlosser, I. J. 1985. Flow regime, juvenile abundance, and the assemblage structure of stream fishes.Ecology 66:1484–1480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith, T. E., R. J. Stevenson, andJ. J. Cole. 1998. Changes in phytoplankton community structure during zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) invasion of the Hudson River (New York).Journal of Plankton Research 20:1567–1579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Strange, E. M., P. B. Moyle, andT. C. Foin. 1992. Interactions between stochastic and deterministic processes in stream fish community assembly.Environmental Biology of Fishes 36:1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Strayer, D. L., K. Hattala, and A. Kahnle. In press. Effects of an invasive bivalve (Dreissena polymorpha) on fish populations in the Hudson River estuary.Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.Google Scholar
  42. Ter Braak, C. J. F. 1986. Canonical correspondence analysis: A new eigenvector technique for multivariate direct gradient analysis.Ecology 67:1167–1179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Thiel, R., A. Sepulveda, R. Kafeman, andW. Nellen. 1995. Environmental factors as forces structuring the fish community of the Elbe estuary.Journal of Fish Biology 46:47–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tyler, A. V. 1971. Periodic and resident components in communities of Atlantic fishes.Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 28:935–946.Google Scholar
  45. Vose, F. E. andS. S. Bell. 1994. Resident fishes and macrobenthos in mangrove-rimmed habitats—Evaluation of habitat restoration by hydrologic modification.Estuaries 17:585–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wells, A. W., J. A. Matousek, andJ. B. Hutchison. 1992. Abundance trends in Hudson River white perch, p. 242–264.In C. L. Smith (ed.), Estuarine Research in the 1980's. State University of New York Press, Albany, New York.Google Scholar
  47. Wells, A. W. andJ. R. Young. 1992. Long-term variability and predictability of Hudson River physical and chemical characteristics. p. 29–58.In C. L. Smith (ed.), Estuarine Research in the 1980's. State University of New York Press, Albany, New York.Google Scholar
  48. Whitfield, A. K. 1998. Biology and Ecology of Fishes in Southern African Estuaries. Ichthyological Monographs No. 2. J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology, Grahamstown, South Africa.Google Scholar
  49. Whitfield, A. K. andM. Elliott. 2002. Fishes as indicators of environmental and ecological changes within estuaries: A review of progress and some suggestions for the future.Journal of Fish Biology 61:229–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yant, P. R., J. R. Karr, andP. L. Angermeier. 1984. Stochasticity in stream fish communities: An alternative interpretation.American Naturalist 124:573–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Yolklavich, M. M., G. M. Cailliet, J. P. Barry, D. A. Ambrose, andB. S. Antrim. 1991. Temporal and spatial patterns in abundance and diversity of fish assemblages in Elkhorn Slough, California.Estuaries 14:465–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Sources of Unpublished Materials

  1. Young, B. Unpublished data. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 205 N. Belle Meade Rd., East Setauket, New York 11733.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas P. Hurst
    • 1
  • Kim A. McKown
    • 2
  • David O. Conover
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Sciences Research CenterStony Brook UniversityStony Brook
  2. 2.New York State Department of Environmental ConservationEast Setauket
  3. 3.Fisheries Behavioral Ecology Program, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA-NMFSHatfield Marine Science CenterNewport

Personalised recommendations